All Light, Everywhere
Director/ Theo Anthony
Watched on Hulu
Ambitious, full of ideas, visually mellow, and pungently up-to-the-minute, All Light, Everywhere could be so much better than it is. The movie takes us on a scattershot tour of the surveillance industry, spending time with a high-tech company manufacturing body cameras (that literally roll by on a conveyor belt, industry-on-parade style), a training seminar in the use of the cams for police officers, a crime-fighting spy-drone salesman, a community meeting considering the use of said crime-fighting spyware, a volunteer testing program for something I couldn’t figure out, a gathering of regular folks waiting for an eclipse, the history of the Gatling gun and a biographical sketch of the founder of eugenics, a few other details that seem to be tossed into the mix because, well, why not, and all of it oversaturated with an ominous, too-loud electronic score and/or an intentionally monotonal narrator riffing on cameras, lenses, photography, and trippy essay-like statements that don’t really congeal into an accessible throughline.
The director Theo Anthony is like a kid I knew in the sixth-grade in Tacoma who, when it came time to pick a state for our big United States history project, chose the easiest one, our home state, Washington, which meant that instead of doing any research or actual writing of a report he simply threw every tourist brochure and pamphlet and local magazine and piece of government propaganda he could find into a big box and brought it to school on the day the assignment was due. It looked impressive, but he couldn’t really tell you what was in the box, or what the state bird or most important crop was. There was plenty of “meaning” in the box, but you had to dig hard to find it yourself.
I appreciated Anthony’s intent with this film, a mosaic survey of the tools readily available to keep watch on everyone, everywhere, at any time, in the name of security and veracity, and how–like nearly all the promises technology makes to us–these tools can be manipulated to distort actual reality into a virtual or pre-ordained reality. But I could have done with less volume and more focus.